Added sugars limited for first time in school meals

April 24, 2024

Added sugars will be limited for the first time in school meals around the country as part of gradual changes in nutrition standards announced Wednesday in a rule from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

The changes will shed sugar in meals starting in the fall of 2025 and cut back on added sugars in flavored milk. As part of the updates aimed at strengthening child nutrition, schools will be required to “slightly” reduce sodium in meals as well.

Sugar will be limited in school meals beginning fall 2025 and will be fully implemented by fall 2027, adjusting the nutrition in breakfasts and lunches served to 30 million students every school day, according to the rule. Foods like flavored milk, yogurt and cereal will have less sugar. 

“Like teachers, classrooms, books, and computers, nutritious school meals are an essential part of the school environment, and when we raise the bar for school meals, it empowers our kids to achieve greater success inside and outside of the classroom,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.  

“Expanding on this major milestone, the Biden-Harris Administration will continue to partner with schools, districts, states and industry to build on the extraordinary progress made to strengthen school meals,” he added.

Schools will be able to offer both unflavored and flavored milk, but a new limit will be imposed by fall 2025, curbing added sugars in flavored milk served at both lunch and breakfast. 

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) expressed gratitude for keeping low-fat flavored milk on school menus.

“This final rule helps ensure kids will be able to choose a nutritious milk they tend to prefer,” NMPF President and CEO Gregg Doud said in a statement. “Many children prefer low-fat flavored milk over fat-free, and flavored milk offers the same nutrients as regular milk with a minor amount of added sugar.”

Sodium content in meals will need to be cut down by fall 2027. The nutritional composition of whole grains will remain the same.